Let’s Make Some History…And Music

I love a place with history; a place filled with stories, a place where those stories are forever embedded into the walls. Old houses, rundown hotels, mansions that haven’t been occupied in decades, and even newer buildings that are just now creating a history all their own resemble the places I’m talking about.

At the moment, the specific place I have in mind is Upstate Concert Hall. Hundreds of bands have played at this little bar/concert venue and I’m sure there will be hundreds more to follow. I haven’t seen all the bands that have come and gone, but I can imagine the stories that are held within the walls; every guitar chord, every drum beat, every crowd surf, every dancing crowd, every singing crowd. It’s all recorded in the walls, an unwritten record of the things that were, and after Monday night, three more bands have been added to the history of Upstate Concert Hall.

COLONY HOUSE
The screams from the crowd were as loud as the music when the venue lights dimmed and the stage lights glowed red. That first chord brought a spark of energy, like a match igniting, that would only grow and rise like a flame through the duration of the night.

Silhouettes.

Roll With The Punches.

Glorious.

When I Was Younger.

Those are only a few of the songs these guys from Tennessee played during their set. (When I Was Younger, the band’s first album, is musically compelling and, if you listen to the lyrics, they’re great too. The whole album is beautiful.)

As the band played, people danced to the beat and even sang along. The music washed over the crowd like waves and with each end note and every beginning note cheers erupted as everyone danced on. Even I couldn’t help tapping my foot and dancing around a little, but that’s not surprising. I love music.

After the set, I had the opportunity to speak with Caleb, who struck me as a very genuine, down-to-earth person. It always amazes me when band members can manage to stay humble. I think it’s because people are constantly falling all over them, praising them and maybe even worshiping them. It’s not hard to see how someone could grow a rockstar ego. So kudos to these guys for keeping it real.

As an end note, if you have tickets to see these guys on tour, well, you’re in for a treat. If you don’t have tickets, but have been on the fence, wondering if you should go or not, I say go for it. If you can still grab tickets to this show, I highly recommend it.

SIR SLY
The crowd really went crazy for this band from California. (I couldn’t help but wonder how cold these guys must be, since California is much warmer then the arctic blast of the Northeast.) During the set people were continuously dancing and screaming. It was the equivalent to a dance part.

There was a group of girls standing in front of me who took this idea of a dance party to the next level. They threw up their hands and started swaying back and forth, bopping along to the beat. It was interesting to watch and see how they were absorbed by the music and, in the end, acted like they didn’t care who was around or who was watching.

The band had a huge amount of energy that flowed into the crowd and bounced right back to the stage. And yes, if anyone is wondering, they did play Gold.

THE KONGOS
What happens when you take four brothers with incredible musicality and give them instruments?

You end up with The Kongos.

The floor, the ceiling and the walls vibrated with every beat of the drum and every pluck of the bass. The notes floated into the wall and seemed to be absorbed as they were recorded, becoming part of the place’s musical history.

Before going any further I have to congratulate Johnny on rocking the accordion. Not only just accompanying his brothers, but solos as well. That’s when he seemed to really let loose. You rarely hear accordion solos, especially ones this impressive. (The last time I heard an accordion solo this good was in March 2014 by Jerome Fontamillas, on the same stage.) This is just a small taste of the sweet rock n’ roll that was brought to this show.

Come With My Now.

It’s A Good Life.

I Want To Know.

I’m Only Joking.

During I’m Only Joking, every time Jesse hit the drums, two smoke rings would blow out from the stage and float over the crowd. It was a very cool effect for the song, but at a certain point there was so much smoke around him that I wondered if it was suppose to be that way or if the smoke suddenly had a mind of its own. Either way, I was hopping he could still see and wouldn’t start coughing as he continued drumming.

This group of brothers, originally from South Africa (now living in, I believe, Arizona), have created music that blends accordion, guitar, bass and drums. I find some songs to be more drum and guitar heavy, which isn’t a negative thing at all. If anything, I love that hard, raw rock sound. Then, when you introduce an accordion to the mix, you end up with a sound you just have to hear for yourself. (Seriously, go listen.) And it would seem that, based on their reaction, the crowd agreed. Each song was a hand-clapper and foot-stomper (but of course there were those that proved more mellow).

The lighting was amazing too. Beautiful. As a photographer the lights during shows always catch my eye. Sometimes I think I’m as captivated by the lighting as I am the music. There was one song in particular where a light green fell across the drummer’s face and the way he was illuminated was simply gorgeous.

During the show Dylan announced that they will be heading back into the studio to record their third album. Following this announcement the guys played two new songs. And lets just say that if these song are any indication of what the full album will sound like, then, I believe we’re all in for a real treat.

END NOTES
Three more bands have come and gone, but there will be many more to follow. The walls of this venue will continue to gather stories as the days go on and I can’t wait to be part of some of them; to whiteness history in the making, to feel the music pulsate through my body as it snakes it way through the crowd, to have the opportunity to speak with some of these band members. So lets do this again and for many years to come. Lets make some history. Lets make some music.

What A Journey It Has Been (And I Will Listen Until The Very End)

For the last twelve years I’ve listened to Jon sing to me.

Ok, so, not to me personally.

It’s his voice from the albums or at live shows as it rings out from the speakers.

There’s something special about these songs that keep me coming back. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but I do know the beautiful honesty of the lyrics is refreshing. Sometimes we might not want to see the truth. Sometimes the truth is ugly, but other times it’s beautiful.

I’ve been lucky enough to have grown up with these songs (But does luck really have anything to do with it? Maybe the word I’m looking for is “privileged.” Then again, maybe I’m still looking for a word). And I will continue to listen until the very end.

WE WERE MEANT TO LIVE
The sun was out. I was in the car with my mom (I think we were going to the grocery store). I was thirteen (what an awkward age). It was a sweltering summer day and a song I had never heard before, with an opening that immediately hooked me, came on the radio. I didn’t know who it was, but I knew I liked it. (My musical horizon was just beginning to grow. I was starting to find new bands and artist and see what the music world really had to offer.).

That year, when my family and I went to visit my grandparents, I heard the song again.
It was one of those days that I had decided to spend with my aunt, uncle and cousins (they didn’t live that far from my grandparents so it was easy to get there). While sitting in my cousins room, I heard the song begin to play, the notes coming through the radio speakers.

“Do you know who this is?” I asked.

“I think it’s Switchfoot,” she said.

I repeated the name in my head over and over again so I wouldn’t forget.

I didn’t forget.

The next day I used Google to find the band, the name of the song (Meant to Live) and the name of the album it was on (oh, Google…what would I do without you?). Then I went to the music store and, since nothing was in alphabetical order, searched row after row until I found it.

The Beautiful Letdown.

And it was beautiful.

LIVE MUSIC IS BETTER THEN AN ALBUM (ESPECIALLY WITH A LITTLE RISK INVOLVED)
I’m seventeen and I’m standing in a back alley, alone, in front of a tour bus. How did I get here? Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s March 2007 andFire Lights Switchfoot’s Oh! Gravity tour decided to roll around to my town. Of course I’m excited. Of course I’m going. (I saw their Nothing is Sound tour at the same venue.). They’re playing at a small place called Northern Lights (now Upstate Concert Hall), where I spent most of my middle school and high school days thanks to a constant stream of good bands and artist.

So here I am, standing outside the venue in the cold. (March doesn’t necessarily mean spring. Not in Upstate New York. Snow sticks around straight through most of March, and this particular year was no different.). As I’m standing in line with a few others, I start thinking about the back of the venue. I’ve been here so much over the years that I know it inside and out.

Question: What would happen if I walked back to the buses?

The seventeen year old me was curious, but also always played by the rules. I rarely took risks when I was younger and never a risk that broke the rules or overstepped the boundaries (I still play by rules and don’t overstep boundaries, for the most part.). And I thought that I would be breaking the rules if I went back there. Well, I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but clearly I decided to throw caution to the wind.

Risk.

But one that I would soon find out to be worth it.

Before going forward I want to take a moment to say that walking that back alley alone was not only scary, but also felt like the longest walk of my life. It was as if it went on forever, like it was stretching and I was getting nowhere. Despite being by a major road, it was relatively quiet that afternoon. My sneakers slapped against the pavement, echoed and screamed out my presents with every step, not to mention the added creepy effect of all the graffiti scattered along the walls. (And that’s how I ended up standing in a back alley in the middle of the afternoon, alone, in front of a tour bus at seventeen.).

Anyway, I made it back there in one piece and was feeling pretty good about myself until I saw there were two buses, which I wasn’t expecting. So I picked one and stood in front of it, shaking. Not because I was cold, but because I was nervous. I was completely out of my comfort zone on this one, but I was sticking with it. After awhile I saw movement through the tinted windshield. Something was going to happen. The door opened and Jon stepped off the bus. He seemed to see me before the door to the DSC01280bus even closed. He said hi and came right over (Like it was no big deal. Like he does this everyday. Like there’s always a seventeen year old girl with hot chocolate patiently standing in front of their bus.). I’ll let the picture tell the rest of the story.

Thinking back, I’m almost certain (like 99%) that this was the moment that changed everything. The music had hooked me since day one. And I had a vibe they were a good group of guys, but this was the moment that broke down the invisible barrier between the band and the crowd. This was the moment that solidified what I had already thought; that we are all human beings.

THE GUYS
Husbands.

Fathers.

Artist.

Musicians.

Surfers.

Humble.

Down-to-earth.

Practical Jokers.

All around good guys.

And every day human beings like you and me.

I’m sure there’s many more words that could go on that list. I know there’s more words I could probably add to that list, but I’m going to leave it as is, since people are so much more then just descriptive words. I’m not trying to put these guys on a pedestal or act like they’re superheroes because, as the last line says, they’re every day human beings just like you and me.

OH SWEET MELODIES AND LYRICS OF GOLD
The lights slowly dim. Then it goes dark. A single chord burst through the speakers and emanates through the crowd and you smile because you know somethingSwitchftoo2 is about to happen. The stage lights flash and burn colors of red, blue, purple, green and yellow. As you start to sing along, you’re swept away by the music.

When I let myself be absorbed by music, when I can feel the bass vibrating through my body and it feels as if my heartbeat has suddenly changed to keep time with the music, well, that’s a truly wonderful feeling. And I can’t really put it into words.

I love music and whether it’s live or coming from my CD player or iPod, I often find myself singing along or tapping my foot to the beat (or even dancing). Some of the melodies are so beautiful as the words float along with the notes. Others are powerful (you know…hard, rock, raw). It might sound strange, but I can feel the emotion of every song. (And maybe there’s others out there who are with me.). It’s the same with the lyrics, feeling the emotion; the honesty, the hope, or whatever it might be. And sometimes I think the words capture those emotions so well, so beautifully, that the lyrics are pure gold.

SO WE MEET AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN…AND AGAIN
After our initial meeting all those years ago, there were many more.

The SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The Gramercy Theater in New York, NY.

Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY.

The Landmark Theater in Syracuse, NY.

You could say I’ve compiled quite a list and have done a decent job of making my way around the state of New York. Sure, I wish I’ve been to more then six shows, but I’m not made of money and I go when I can (and this is so far from the point I’m trying to make that it’s time to move on).

The first time they remembered me, I was surprised (since it had been two or three years since my last show…Drew you totally caught me off guard). Five months later it happened again and then six months later it was déjà vu. It’s an interesting feeling too, when you’re remembered like that, because they meet so many people every day, every tour, all around the world, how is it that they picked your face out, that they remembered you? Maybe it’s luck. Maybe I have one of those faces. Maybe I’ve been to too many shows (impossible). Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. Whatever it is, it’s like seeing old friends.

I look forward to the next time we meet. And I wonder, will you remember me?

SwitchfootA lot of memories have come out of each one of these shows. They’re special things to me that I will not share with all of you. (Sorry if you were looking for specifics, but some things just have to be kept for ourselves.). I’ll let the pictures do all the talking. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

THANK YOU
It seems strange to say “thank you” to people for doing something they love. Yet, at the same time, I think it’s a way to let them know not only what they do, but also they themselves, are loved and appreciated. So here’s a little note from me to all the guys of Switchfoot (on the off chance that any of you will ever read it).

Dear Jon, Tim, Chad, Drew, Jerome,
From the moment I heard Meant to Live I was captivated. Something grabbed me and has never let go. I think I found your music at just the right time in my life, or maybe it found me.

We all remember what it’s like to be thirteen, what it’s like to be a teenager. Almost everything is awkward and most of your time is spent trying to figure out who you are, seeing where you fit in and where you belong. It’s hard to be yourself when so many other things are pushing against you, trying to change you. Even now, at 25, I’m pretty confident in knowing who I am, but I often wonder where exactly I fit in this world, although, maybe that’s a struggle everyone has.

There have been many times in my life where I’ve needed God and many times in my life where I’ve needed music. Prayer helps, but so does music. At least it helps me. It’s a way for me to decompress, to escape reality as I’m swept away by the melody.

Jon, I wrote to you once, about a year ago, part of that note explaining how much your music has impacted my life. After all, you’re the band I grew up with. Your music has helped me through some hard times; when my cousin, uncle and aunt all passed away, when I lost my childhood dog to cancer, when my best friend moved to another country, on the days I felt lost and unsure of myself. Sometimes I still feel unsure of myself, but maybe everyone feels that way sometimes and, maybe, that’s when we have to take a leap of faith and just trust in ourselves. I’ve listened to your music not only in bad time, but good times too; when I’m happy or excited or for no reason at all. Your music touches my heart and reaches down to my very soul. It just makes me feel good and shines a light of hope on the dark corners of the world.

As a writer your music inspires me. As a person, you all inspire me. I think we should all strive to make the world a better place. Lately I’ve found myself writing about things I don’t necessarily understand; love, death, life in general. Life is a funny and beautiful thing, despite the turmoil the world faces and the personal tragedies. There is beauty in life. And part of that beauty is the miracle of our existence. (But now I’m going off on a tangent and it’s about to become rather philosophical, so I’ll get back on track. However, if we ever have a chance to chat for a longer period of time, maybe we can talk about this. Or music. Or writing. Or even how Drew’s joker face is so disturbing that it gave me nightmares for almost a week after seeing it for the first time.). I’m not trying to put any of you on a pedestal because we’re all human beings doing what we love, but sometimes people enter your life somewhere along the way and make an impact, a real difference.

Thank you.

For every note, every melody, every lyric, every song.

For all the sacrifices, for giving it your all every night, for taking the time to talk to people and hear their stories.

Thank you.

For the last twelve years I have been listening and singing along and each song means something to me. I’m not sure what else there is to say…just…thank you.

~ Nicole Monsees

DOWN THE OPEN ROAD UNKNOWN
Life has its ways of surprising you.

What a journey it has been.

I’m sure we all have that one band or artist that we grew up with, the ones whose music speaks to you, the ones who made an impact in your life. I might have started down life’s path 25 years ago, but I started this musical journey when I was thirteen.

And I can’t wait to see what will happen next and where the road will lead.

What Makes A Hero?

A hero doesn’t always wear a cape. They don’t always wear a mask either. They don’t always fly through the air or have superhuman strength. They don’t always have a fast car or utility belt. A hero doesn’t always look like Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.

In reality, heroes are everyday people like you and me.

The man who saves a dog after it has fallen through the ice. Hero.

The woman who helps a neighbor. Hero.

The people who rise up against injustice. Heroes.

We all have those people in our lives we look up to. For one reason or another you could say they are our heroes, but they might not see themselves that way. They see themselves as people who believe they are doing the right thing or just doing their job.

The people I consider heroes probably don’t even know I see them as such, but I suppose if they ever read this, then, they will know for certain.

My mom. She is without a doubt a hero in my eyes. I see it more now that I’m older, how much she has always sacrificed for me and how much she continues to sacrifice, even though I’m old enough to be on my own. She’s one of the most selfless people I know, always putting the needs of others before herself.

She isn’t Wonder Woman in the sense of the comic book character, but she is a wonder woman to me. Everyday she cooks dinner, even when she’s not feeling well. She cleans, takes care of the dog, runs errors and so much more. Unlike others, her job is 24/7. She’s always on call.

When I was younger she would pack my lunch for school and put me on the bus in the morning (but that was before she started dropping me off and picking me up everyday). When I was sick she took care of me, bringing me tea with milk and sugar, singing to me, sitting up with me in the middle of the night and reading me Nancy Drew until I fell asleep.

Thinking back, I’m pretty sure I took all of those things for granted.

And I’m sorry.

Since the time I was little she’s supported me in every aspect of my life. Of course she tells me when I’m wrong or when she doesn’t agree with what I’m thinking or doing, but she always supports my decisions.

My mom is the one I talk to the most. I know I could talk to my friends or to my dad or my brother or any other member in my family, but it’s different then talking to my mom.It seems like moms understand everything better then anyone else. She is always there for me when I need her. I know I can count on her. And in the almost 25 years I’ve been on this planet, she’s never let me.

I know a lot of women who freak out or practically have a nervous breakdown when they realize they are becoming their mother. I don’t want to be my mom, but I hope to one day be like her; strong, selfless, and overall amazing.

So while she might not be a superhero in the comic book sense of the word, she’s certainly a hero to me, a wonder woman in her own way.

Now, my dad. He taught me how to ride a bike and picked me up when I fell down. He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to prime and paint and stain and build things. He taught me that he has an undying confidence in me and that I am a stronger woman then I sometimes believe myself to be.

We have our adventures. We have our laughs. We have our disagreements and our fights, but if my dad’s hard on me it’s only because he wants the best for me (and I didn’t see that when I was younger).

My dad and I might not always see eye to eye, but he’s always their for me. He’s a hard worker and it’s because of him that I grew up with most of the things I remember. It’s because of my dad that I have a college education. Yes, that’s right. I’m not ashamed to say that my parents helped me through college. I know if it wasn’t for them, well, there’s not way I could have afforded four years of school.

Like my mom, he might not be a superhero, but he is a hero. He might not be Superman in the conventional comic book way, but he is a super man. At least to me.

Maybe I’ve taken all of these things for granted, and I’m sorry, but I know my parents always tried to give me the best life possible.

And I have always appreciated it, even if I didn’t show it at the time.

Sure there are other people I look up to (for a variety of different reasons), but not one could take the top spots away form my parents.

It’s the every day people in our lives and in the world that are the true heroes. It’s the people who show compassion, who try to make the world a better place, who make small difference one step at a time, who do positive things that go unnoticed or unappreciated who are the real heroes. They might not fly around in fancy costumes, but you can always count on them. They are everyday people, just like you and me.